“Hello, I’m Karen and I’ll be your cartwheeling waitress for the evening.”
Two cartwheels and one coffee later, I’m inclined to believe her. “You’re welcome,” she utters for no particular reason.
Myself and Lord Peter are in an empty bar in Yorkville with Lawrence@50, Mr Begley and Diane. It’s midnight and an appropriate end to what’s already been dubbed Rene Magritte Monday.
Earlier in the evening, for a joke, the Bowness/Chilvers Blues Explosion signed up for an open mike spot at Gary 17’s ‘Acoustic Session’ at the Blues On Bellair. At the soundcheck, I’m prevented from using the microphone by a stoned white afro-man’s psychedelic dancing to Peter’s tentative first steps on the huge in-house Hammond organ. Later, afro-man regales us and the SARS reduced audience of nine with a seemingly endless blues in search of a tune, called ‘I’s Going Down And I’m Dickin’ Around’. Masturbation has rarely sounded so poetic an experience. The club’s barkeep, an ex member of Toronto’s semi-legendary Luke And The Apostles, gets his kicks by giving out free drinks, heckling the performers and occasionally rushing on stage to play a mean Hammond solo or six.
Unfortunately, Lord C’s Hammond debut is mean in an altogether different way. Several Molson Canadians into the evening, Peter’s rendition of ‘Dreaming Of Babylon’ sounds more like ‘Verily, The Hammond Has Been Drinking, Not I’. Luckily, he quickly redeems himself and we do passable renditions of a few of our more introspective tunes to a largely comatose crowd. Reserved and highly English, we do much to enhance the surreal atmosphere of the near empty bar.
A weird luddite/tech-geek scenario presents itself as Gary 17 dressed as a cowboy and extolling the virtues of Shania Twain and good ol’ country values, also comes with a state of the art headset and DJs with a laptop.
Another stoned would-be performer becomes fascinated with myself and Peter and tells us that Buddy Holly is God, many, many times over. A pretty girl from Calgary laughs at my every joke as if it’s the funniest thing she’s ever heard, and for a while I’m convinced that my delivery is better than Bob Hope’s. Later, I realise that in her eyes, everybody’s is.
Yesterday’s leisurely stroll on the beautiful Toronto Islands seems a lifetime away.